Despite the striking similarities in their packaging and products, the UK’s Walkers crisps and North America’s Lay’s potato chips might as well be selling apples and oranges. Although both brands are owned by the PepsiCo company, Walkers has decided to add one significant detail to their packets – a label stating that 75.0 grams of carbon were emitted to produce a 34.5 gram bag of chips.

Walkers was the first major food brand to display such information, which came about as a collaboration with their parent company PepsiCo, and Carbon Trust – a UK government funded not-for-profit who’s mission it is to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by working with organisations to reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies.

The ‘carbon reduction label’ introduced in 2007 for consumer products may well be setting a precedent for future marketing plans as shoppers become increasingly concerned with buying products from companies that are environmentally sustainable and take climate change remediation seriously.

But ‘greenwash’ is also an issue that’s being taken to the fryer. Consumers are forever weary that corporations do little in terms of practical mitigation beyond the branding and marketing campaigns they roll out for new products. In order to retain the right to use the Carbon Trust label, businesses that partner with the Carbon Trust must commit to its measurement standards and to a two-year programme of carbon reduction.

Carbon Trust has also developed a “Code of Good Practices on GHG Emissions and Reductions Claims.” The code helps businesses use certified data to clearly communicate product life cycle GHG emissions, and support effective communication of the lifecycle GHG emissions of products and/or emission reductions, assessed in conformity with PAS 2050 – Carbon Trust’s official standards for evaluating carbon sustainability (known as the “Publicly Available Specification 2050” or PAS 2050).

ACT’s third session, on clean energy production and distribution, is scheduled to begin April 2009. We’ll look at the new, clean energy technologies people are coming to rely on as ways to reduce emissions, and ask, “Will climate change pose real problems for production and delivery of energy sources such as hydro and wind power?”